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Espace: how long do brakes last ?

Just had my 05MY in for a 36k service (yes I do use it a lot), I have just replaced the front tyres for the first time, and the garage have just phoned to say that the front brake pads are 70% worn and would not make another service.

I got 50k from mil last volvo for a set of pads, the engineer thought I was having a laugh and said they nomally change them at 18K service ...

Sureley 18k is a bit rich for changing brake pads...anyone else got any more thoughts..

The engineer also said that they dont have any indicators on the dash that show when pads are low (its a Grand Espace - Privelige)... any suggestions..

I know I drive like Mr Sensible, and want things to last for ages, but have I misunderstood how long things like this will last (its another 140 to change the pads, on top of the 380 for the service....)
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